Keynote speakers kick off DistribuTECH Brasil, HydroVision Brasil with discussion of country’s electricity future

By Teresa Hansen, editor-in-chief, POWERGRID International magazine

Brazil’s electricity demand and consumption are increasing and the country must determine how it will meet these increases. Clean energy, high-voltage transmission and smart grid will be keys to Brazil’s electricity future. This was the theme of the opening keynote session at DistribuTECH Brasil and Hydrovision Brasil on Tuesday afternoon.

“We cannot be scared or in awe of the size of the work in front of us,” said Elaine Franàƒ§a Fonseca, assistant to the director of distribution at Eletrobras.

Fonseca was the first of four industry experts to discuss Brazil’s electricity sector.

She told the audience of more than 250 people that the electricity business environment in Brazil can be difficult to navigate. Electricity generators, transporters and distributors, technology suppliers, regulators and customers all must find their places in the electricity sector going forward, Fonseca said.

New technologies, especially those related to smart grid, will help distribution companies improve relationships they have with customers.

“Eletrobras is good at installing equipment in the field,” Fonseca said. “We are not as good with people.”

She talked about noncommercial energy losses, also known as energy theft, and how smart grid will help electricity providers deal with the issue.

“Smart grid deals with electricity distribution,” she said. “Generation and transmission have already dealt with automation.”

It is time to automate the distribution system, Fonseca said. Smart grid will help Brazil meet its growing energy demand and consumption and maintain a clean energy matrix. It also is important in remote areas of Brazil, such as the Amazon, where electricity must be generated and distributed, she said.

Fonseca discussed an Eletrobras project underway in the Amazon called Project Parintins-Smart Grid. A smart grid pilot project in Parintins, Amazona for which she is responsible. Parintins, Amazona, is a small town in the Amazon that can be reached by only plane or boat, each of which runs once per day. She said the project is part of Brazil’s Light for All program. Through the smart grid pilot, Parintins is receiving 20 percent of its electricity from solar installations.

Sergio Gomes, vice president, Latin America Region for Alstom Grid, followed Fonseca. He presented a slide that showed the world at night.

“What will the world look like in 2030?” Gomes asked. “Will it be lighter or darker?”

He said Brazil’s electricity sector will be impacted by regulatory framework, which will include bilateral and country agreements for electricity. Delivering reliable electricity provided from stable sources will still be required, but this basic goal, will push our systems to the limit, he said.

Smart grids will allow energy delivery to remain reliable and efficient, Gomes said. He also described smart grid as the “network of networks.”

In addition to smart grid, Gomes said high-voltage DC (HVDC) transmission will be important to Brazil’s energy future. HVDC must go beyond its current point-to-point capability and be developed to support multiple “putting off” and “putting on” points.

“Smart grid will demand it,” he said.

Jerson Kelman, a well-known electricity expert in Brazil who has held several important positions in the country’s electricity sector, reinforced much of what the first two speakers said. The Brazilian power sector faces challenges, Kelman said.

“I must start my presentation by putting things into perspective,” he said.

Brazil must decide how it will produce power and the other decisions will be based on that decision. Brazil generates 47 percent of its energy (electricity and transportation fuel) from renewable sources while the worldwide average is 13 percent, Kelman said. Most of the country’s vehicles run on ethanol and hydro generation provides 85 percent of its electricity.

Brazil is a hydro country and it is large, which allows it to take advantage of it hydrological diversity, Kelman said. In other words, when one region of the country experiences a dryer than normal season or drought, another part of the country will experience a wetter than normal season to balance it out and keep generating needed electricity.

“To take advantage of hydrological diversity, energy must be dispatched centrally so that it can be transported long distances,” Kelman said.

He touted Brazil’s large, robust transmission system. If its transmission system was installed in Europe and Russia, it could move energy from Moscow to Lisbon, he said.

New smart grid technology, especially smart meters, are important to Brazil’s electricity future, Kelman said. Smart grid technology will allow companies to lower consumers’ bills and smart meters will help utilities combat energy theft.

In addition, Kelman discussed Brazil’s abundance of undeveloped and underdeveloped hydro capacity. The rivers in the Amazon region need more reservoirs to manage flow variability during different seasons, he said. He pointed out that the rivers in Brazil provide not only power, but are used for transportation. In addition, he reminded the audience that Brazil’s hydro power allows it to develop other renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, without having to build fossil-fueled thermal plants.

“If we don’t use our natural resources, we will have to use oil to generate,” Kelman said. “We need a holistic view (of electricity) that is lacking in Brazil.”

Flàƒ¡vio Decat, president of Furnas, echoed much of what Kelman said about Brazil’s need to develop its hydro resources and how important the Amazon region is to the country.

“Only five years ago I visited the Amazon for the first time. It is not just a different part of the country, it is a different world,” he said.

There are areas and villages that are so remote it can take up to 35 days by boat to get from one place to another, Decat said. These boats use diesel fuel and it takes two gallons of diesel fuel to deliver every one gallon of diesel used in the Amazon.

“Not one Hollywood actor has ever been an activist against using diesel in the Amazon,” he said.

They have, however, along with Brazilian actors, voiced much opposition to hydropower, Decat said.

“I think we (Brazil) need to move our country forward using hydro,” Decat said.

He voiced skepticism about whether Brazil will do so.

“I do not believe a country with the largest hydro potential in the world will reach that potential,” he said. “I hope I am wrong.”

DistribuTECH Brasil and HydroVision Brasil continue through Thursday, Sept. 27, at the Riocentro Exhibition & Convention Center in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


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